In May 1994, fifteen-year-old Natasha Franke and her parents Jim and Janet Franke settled their disability discrimination case against McKinley Properties, the owners of Glencose Hills Apartments, for $15,000 plus $3,500 set aside for the installation of an electric exterior door. This case is believed to be the first attempt to enforce the landlord’s duty to pay for modifications under the Michigan Handicapper’s Civil Rights Act (MHCRA). The apartment, located on the ground floor, had five steps leading to a landing and then five steps going back down. Natasha has Muscular Dystrophy and uses a wheelchair. Since 1989, the Frankes had on many occasions requested that McKinley Properties remove from the front steps. Each time McKinley refused, including September 1992 when the property owner ripped out the worn steps and replaced them with a new set of stairs.
In September 1993, the stairs to the apartment were finally removed. Attorneys for McKinley credit the picketing of Glencoe Hills Apartments by advocacy groups (ADAPT/Michigan and the Homeless Action Committee) with their decision to make the initial improvemnts.
The Michigan Handicappers’ Civil Rights Act states that a corporation “…shall accommodate a [person with a disability] for purposes of housing unless the [corporation] demonstrates that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship”. McKinley is the fourth largest residential property management company in Michigan. The case was assigned to Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge Patrick Conlin. Congratulations to the Frankes and Cooperating Attorney Martin Scott.
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